Baking & Snack - October 2020 - 68

When the need for
more people on the
packaging line is
reduced, so is the
risk for injury or
virus outbreaks.
Harpak-Ulma

through the use of robots," Mr. Arnold said. "It becomes
a very individual decision for the manufacturer as to
whether they have the infrastructure to make the leap
into that next generation of technology. And automation
suppliers are working to make it simpler and more userfriendly, but it takes a different skill set to work on servos and robots than on sprockets and chains."

Protection in the plant
COVID-19 concerns with baked foods and snacks are
prevalent with consumers. Safety begins with the people
right on the plant floor because the packaging area is the
space where social distancing can be the hardest to achieve.
Mr. Arnold noted the risks that come with packaging
line workers' close proximity to one another.
"This environment greatly increases the risk of an outbreak in the plant, which could lead to a complete shutdown of the facility for cleaning and quarantining," he said.
"Robots can certainly help mitigate this risk."
Formost Fuji is working with robotics to place items
such as flatbread into a stack of six before feeding into the
flowwrapper. This effectively limits the number of workers
that could otherwise be crowding the machine.
"One machine could have four people around it, but
the same throughput can happen with a couple of robots,"
Mr. Gunnell said.
Pandemic aside, robots alleviate several other challenges
for packaging operators as well.
"Any time you reduce personnel from a manual loading
process, the safety increases, and that reduces injury, repetitive motion and fatigue," said Hugh Crouch, product manager, flow, for Harpak-Ulma.

The flexibility fit
While robotics may be old news in the large-scale facilities,
many mid-size bakeries are now discovering it as a tool for
packaging versatility. It's important to know that flexibility
is not always synonymous with adaptability, so bakers must
think strategically on what they want to accomplish.
For example, flexibility pertains to alleviating changeover time with multiple pack sizes or a shift in product
dimensions.
"Flowwrapping systems and robotics are very good for
that flexibility," Mr. Kehrli said.

68 Baking & Snack October 2020 / www.bakingbusiness.com

With Harpak-Ulma automation, the technology is designed to match the changeover need.
"For example, if the HFFS machine can operate with a
simple 5-minute changeover from product to product, the
automation needs to be designed around not adding to that
time," said John Weddleton, product manager, automation,
Harpak-Ulma. "We can do this by designing gripper solutions that can handle several different sized products without any changeover."
With robots, however, a common misconception follows, but the truth is that they don't make life easier just by
their sheer existence. Robotic equipment can do just about
anything a human can do, but it can't do everything.
"That's the real challenge," Mr. Gunnell said. "If you're
running a couple different products that are somewhat
similar and putting them in the infeed single-serve, it can
do a great job. But if you're running everything under the
sun, it, too, will have limitations."
The difference is in a robot's end-of-arm tooling ... as
long as this aspect of the equipment is correctly suited to
the product type and configuration.
"For picking up, moving and placing, robots do really
well," Mr. Gunnell added, "as long as the product will lend
itself to doing that."
Space savings can also accompany flexibility when HFFS
systems work with robots.
"Once we have the die layout, the robotic cell area is
quickly calculated, and we configure the space on the machine and the overall footprint to eliminate wasted length
or width," Mr. McCann said.
Modern control methods that include robots as well as
a host of other technology offer a wealth of flexibility for
bakery and snack producers.
"Changeovers that were once an arduous job of replacing mechanical tooling and adjusting rails or formers can
often be handled simply by pressing a button on the HMI
screen," Mr. Arnold said.
While incorporating robots into the packaging area
doesn't immediately and inherently solve every problem,
strategically incorporating this technology with HFFS
equipment can not only increase flexibility but also
allow bakers and snack makers enter into the new normal where food safety and worker safety have no room
for error.

*


http://www.bakingbusiness.com

Baking & Snack - October 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Baking & Snack - October 2020

Baking & Snack - October 2020 - 1
Baking & Snack - October 2020 - 1
Baking & Snack - October 2020 - 2
Baking & Snack - October 2020 - 3
Baking & Snack - October 2020 - 4
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